1940: USA’S ‘First Modern Census’ released
OnApril 2, 2012 the United States government, after the lapse of 72 years of privacy protection, made the 1940 US census records accessible to the public. Typically census information is protected through privacy laws designed to prevent an individual’s personal information from being accessible to the public while they are still alive. The release of the 1940 census records allows full access to detailed information concerning US demographics and personal information concerning individuals and family households of that time. According to a 1988 poverty research project published by the University of Wisconsin, the 1940 census was referred to as America’s ‘first modern census’. It was the first census to ask about income and it sought more detailed social and economic information than those that preceded it. It was also the first census to be designed by a professional and permanent staff, which included social scientists. It contained a more detailed snapshot of the typical American household than was previously available in census reports, hence it was a good reference for the study of preWWII America’s demographics and financial status as it continued to struggle with the aftermath of the Great Depression.